June 10, 2009, Charleston Gazette
Bayer workers exposed during pipe maintenance
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two employees at the Bayer CropScience plant were exposed to toxic chemicals late last month when they were performing maintenance work without wearing required protective gear, a company official acknowledged Wednesday.
The incident is similar to one that occurred a month after last August's fatal explosion and fire, in which workers were not required to wear respirators when they cleaned out a tank that had contained deadly methyl isocyanate.
Names of the two workers involved in the more recent incident on May 26 were not released, and the company made few details of what happened public.
Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials learned of the incident from The Charleston Gazette and were looking into it, said OSHA spokeswoman Leni Uddyback-Fortson.
Neither plant manager Nick Crosby nor plant spokesman Tom Dover returned phone calls. Bayer declined to make a local plant spokesman available, and no one from the company would agree to be interviewed about the incident.
Greg Coffey, a Bayer corporate spokesman, responded to inquiries by sending a short prepared statement via e-mail.
The statement described the incident as a "worker exposure matter" in which two maintenance employees "were reinstalling a pipe and were exposed to a small amount of carbofuran residue."
Carbofuran is one of four end products the Institute plant makes with its huge stockpile of methyl isocyanate, or MIC. FMC Corp. owns the portion of the Institute plant that makes carbofuran's active ingredient, but the unit is operated by Bayer for FMC.
Bayer's statement said the workers were taken to the plant "medical department, where they were observed by medical staff."
"No treatment or first-aid was required, and the two were released," the statement said.
The statement added, "procedures at the site require use of additional personal protective equipment, which is provided by the company, for certain maintenance work, such as this pipe reinstallation; this requirement was not followed in this instance.
"Strict adherence to such personal protective measures is a requirement at the site," the statement said. "This has been further emphasized by unit managers and site safety staff."
In February, OSHA investigators cited Bayer for 13 serious and two repeat violations related to the Aug. 28, 2008, explosion and fire that killed two Institute plant workers.
Among other things, OSHA cited Bayer because employees who were assigned after the explosion to clean out equipment that had contained MIC were not trained to wear respirators during such work. Also, OSHA cited the company because it did not require air sampling for MIC during the work.
Bayer was fined $12,000 for those violations, and the company is challenging the citations. by Ken Ward Jr.
June 11, 2009 ; West Virginia Media
Chemical Exposure At Bayer CropScience Plant Has County Leaders Concerned
The incident happened last month and is just now coming to light.
Charleston -- Plant spokesperson Greg Coffey says two maintenance workers were exposed to a small amount of "carbofuran" residue while reinstalling a pipe. They were not wearing the required protective safety equipment. He adds the two went to the site's medical department where they were observed by medical staff. No treatment or first aid was required and the two were released. Kanawha County commission president Kent Carper says this response is inadequate
"It shouldn't have happened to begin with and to say we're going to re-educate someone is not good enough in light of the previous activity from the same plant," says Carper.
Carper is also concerned about the incident, saying the plant seems to have problems following safety protocol. "I still believe this is a safe plant. Could it be safer? Absolutely yes," says Carper.
He points out that when handling dangerous chemicals incidents are bound to happen. "Do we have good workers there? They are west virginia workers. We have a tremendous history in West Virginia of having safe chemical process. Having said that, one does wonder when you see something like this, and then there's this lack of response," says Carper.
Meanwhile, Coffey says the company has not been contacted by OSHA regarding the incident, yet would not say if the two workers are being disciplined. Story by Gil McClanahan